When you hit your head hard, such as during contact sports or in a car accident, it can cause what is known as traumatic brain injury. While in the long term, repeated injury can lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, in the short term it causes damage to the lining of the brain.
Now for the first time ever, doctors have watched as the lining of the brain heals itself in real time, observing as different immune cells took different jobs to heal the lining. It is hoped that this will offer the potential to develop a way to speed this process up, and possibly reduce the risk of long-term damage in patients.
“The lining of the brain, with help from the immune system, has a remarkable ability to put itself back together again after injury,” explained Dr Dorian McGavern, senior author of the paper describing the process, published in Nature Immunology. “As we learn more about all the cells involved in the repair process, we may be able to identify potential targets for therapy that lead to better outcomes for patients.”
The team of researchers from the National Institute of Health wanted to investigate how mild traumatic brain injury impacted on the lining of the brain, known as the meninges, after observing that around 50 percent of patients who were being treated for head trauma showed evidence that it was leaking fluid following injury.